Mary Help of Christians
Memorial 24 May
feast of Mary Help of Christians, was instituted by Pope Pius VII.
By order of Napoleon, the Pope was arrested on 5 July 1808, and
imprisoned at Savona and Fontainebleau. In January 1814, after the
battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on 17
March, the eve of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the patroness of
Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumphal march with the
pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and
distress, to the Blessed Virgin. He visited many of her sanctuaries on
the way, crowning her images, and entered Rome on 24 May 1814 to
enthusiastic crowds. To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the
Church during his exile he extended the feast of the Seven Dolours of
Mary to the universal Church on 18 September 1814.
When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march
through the Papal States from Naples. Pius VII fled to Savona on 22
March 1815, where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy on 10 May
1815. Following the Congress of Vienna and Battle of Waterloo, he
returned to Rome on 7 July 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady he
instituted the feast of Mary Help of Christians for the Papal
States on 15 September 1815; is was celebrated on 24 May, the
anniversary of his first return. The dioceses of Tuscany adopted it on
12 February 1816, and it spread over nearly the entire Latin Church.
They hymns of the Office were composed by Brandimarte. It is the
patronal feast of Australasia, a double of the first class with an
octave, and is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the
Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special
celebrity since Saint John Bosco dedicated the mother church of his
congregation at Turin to Mary Help of Christians. The Salesian
Fathers have carried the devotion to their numerous establishments, and
prayers for her intervention are credited with the miraculous cure of
Blessed Artemide Zatti.